The Hightower Report
Ari Fleischer serves as Fibber-in-Chief; Cadillac puts on its hat and boots; and truth is stranger than fiction in CorporateWorld.
Fast Lies About 'Fast Track'
There are lies, damned lies, and statistics ... and then there are presidential press secretaries.
The latest embodiment of our government's official Fibber-in-Chief is one Ari Fleischer, George W's White House mouthpiece. A recent example of Ari's artistry came when the Senate was about to derail the administration's "Fast Track" legislation.
Fast Track is an anti-democratic process that allows the executive branch to railroad corporate globalization scams like NAFTA through the Congress with practically no debate and no amendments. This authority expired in 1996, and Bush's corporate funders are demanding that he get it back for them. Surprisingly, 61 senators balked, refusing to abdicate their responsibility to amend bad trade deals.
Just prior to the vote, Ari rushed furiously to the microphones, declaring flatly that a "no" vote on Fast Track "would seriously undermine the cause and purpose of free trade." He was parroting the assertion of other Bushites that, without the Fast-Track railroading provision, "other nations would not make trade deals" with the U.S.
That's a total load of horsehockey, Ari, and you know it. Other countries are desperate to negotiate deals with us, because our country is the fattest and easiest market in the world. In fact, since its 1996 expiration, more than 300 trade deals have been signed, despite not having any Fast Track authority on the books.
It's our own corporate giants that want the Fast Track scheme, because they know that presidents like Bush, and Clinton before him, will negotiate one-sided corporate deals -- and they don't want Congress adding any protection for workers, farmers, communities, or the environment. As Senator Mark Dayton said, the 61 senators were standing up for the majority of people "who are on the losing side of the trade equation. If we don't look out for them, it is a near certainty that no one else will."
Now that's the truth. To fight Fast Track, call Dayton's office: 202/224-3244.
Cadillac's New Hog
Cadillac has gone folksy. The car that's long been known for its snob appeal, the car that's emblazoned with the family crest of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the car that for generations has been the very symbol of America's material wealth -- that car now wants to be just one of the boys. Specifically, Cadillac has come out with a pickup truck.
Cadillac. Pickup. The two words just don't sound right together. I can't imagine Joe Bob, Willie, Geezer, and the boys pulling up at Ida Belle's Chat & Chew Cafe in their Cadillac pickups, can you?
Of course, this is not what Joe Bob and them would call a "working truck," and Cadillac hasn't designed it for such workaday riff-raff as us. It is, after all, still a Cadillac, so this pickup has a soft leather interior, a Bose sound system, and a $50,000 sticker price. Instead of plain pickup colors, this ritzy truck comes in hues that Martha Stewart must have designed: "sable black," "white diamond," and "silver sand." Cadillac's pickup is so fancy that a trailer hitch is optional.
In fact, Cadillac refuses to call its new vehicle a mere pickup. It's an S.U.P -- a Sports Utility Pickup, don't you know. Cadillac's truck has a soft and appropriately luxurious name, the Escalade EXT, and the company told The New York Times that its target customer is a man, 40-something, who lives in a $2 million home, and "might have inherited his father's construction business." Apparently the target customer also is one who's either clueless or doesn't give a damn about keeping America tethered to the spigots of foreign oil and keeping our country gagging on the toxic pollution of gasoline, for the Escalade EXT is a hog. It weighs nearly three tons, has a toxic-spewing 345-horsepower motor, and gets a pathetic 13.5 miles per gallon.
Meanwhile, Cadillac is in Washington lobbying against any toughening of the fuel economy standards.
Spinning Around CorporateWorld
Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.
Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you way out into the wobbly orbit of product promotions, a CorporateWorld where reality is a fuzzy concept at best. Our navigator is Consumer Reports magazine, which covers this territory monthly.
Let's visit the Original Pancake House, which recently distributed special fliers saying "Bring Mom in for Mother's Day." To sweeten the pitch, a coupon was included: "$2 off our Famous Dutch Baby Pancakes." In the small print, however, the coupon read: "Not valid on Mother's Day."
Then there's a fellow who responded to a Time magazine subscription solicitation, sending in his check for $29.97. But instead of getting the magazine, he got a note: "The promotion to which you responded was part of a special test to determine the best price we might offer our future subscribers. Therefore, the price you subscribed at it is not currently available. For this reason, we have canceled your order."
Perhaps the fuzziest promotion, though, is a flier from SMC Corporation hawking its Riata motor home. It includes what appears to be an article that praises the Riata, quoting four sources, including a consumer reporter and a satisfied customer. In tiny print, however, the article has this disclaimer: "Not all of the people quoted actually exist."
And that's the truth in CorporateWorld.
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, call toll free 866/271-4900. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com.